What Is Tangible?

We usually say that some things are tangible, and others are intangible. This means that some are touchable, and others are not touchable. Literally, we can perceive them through our senses, or we cannot. Maybe that is not so useful.

Maybe it is more useful to think of two kinds of tangible—outerTangible (oT) and innerTangible (iT). Things that we sense through our outward-oriented senses are outerTangible. Things that we sense through our inward-oriented senses are innerTangible. My biological senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing gather information about what is happening in the biophysical realms of reality. My body takes that information and transforms it into a form my body can use to do something. That is the outerTangible world.

My body also processes a lot of information that my body is perceiving about my inner state. How am I feeling about my physical state? What do I think and feel about the thoughts, feelings, and intentions I am experiencing? How do I want to respond to the affect I am experiencing from another person, independent or consonant with their words and actions? Do I love this possibility, hate it, or am I indifferent to it? Do I find this scenery to be beautiful? All of these perception signals are also real and quite touchable. I can literally feel them. They are innerTangibles. My body takes that information and transforms it into a form my body can use to do something.

Both the outerTangible and the innerTangible affect me. They are real stimuli to which I respond. Thinking of them as tangible or intangible leads me to think that one is more real than the other, which does not help much. Some of the things that most impact my life and the decisions I make are things like love, hope, and trust. InnerTangibles. Just as real as the outerTangibles. Both critical to perceiving what is happening in my life.

Are We A System Or A Network? A Hat Tip to Russell Ackoff, Again

Almost everything these days is a network (5B Google hits). Or a system (10B Google hits). Are systems and networks the same thing? Are they very different?

A very brief side trip into definitions and etymology might answer this for us, definitively. Network is defined by OED as “a group or system of interconnected people or things.” Network comes from the Proto-Germanic *natjo, perhaps originally “something knotted,” from PIE root *ned– “to bind, tie” and *werka– “work,” from PIE *werg– “to do.” So, from the Proto-Germanic for bound-together work or interconnected people or things. System is defined by OED as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole.”  System comes from the Greek systema “organized whole, a whole compounded of parts,” from syn– “together,” from PIE root *sta– “to stand, make or be firm.” So, from the Greek for interconnected parts. OED seems to partially define a network as a system and a network as a system. So, the definitions and etymology do not seem to clarify much.

Then, there is Russell Ackoff. For me it is always worth it to go back to Russell Ackoff, especially for clarity around seemingly complex themes. In his 2010 book Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management, Ackoff distinguishes networks from systems, clarifying their distinct power and purpose.

A system is a whole that is defined by its function in a larger system of which it is a part. (An automobile, for example, is defined for its role in the transportation system: a university by its role in the educational system.) It has at least two essential parts–parts without which it could not perform its defining function. For example, an automobile cannot function without a motor, fuel, pump, or battery. A person cannot function without a brain, lungs, and a heart. The essential parts have five essential characteristics: (1) Each can affect the behavior or properties of the whole; (2) The way an essential part affects the whole depends on what at least one other part is doing. The effects of the parts are interdependent; (3) Every two essential parts are connected, directly or indirectly; (4) Subsets of essential parts (subsystems) also can affect the properties or behavior of the whole, and the way they affect the whole depends on at least one other subsystem; (5) There is a direct or indirect connection between every pair of subsystems. It follows that a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts. Its properties and behavior derive from the interactions of its parts, not their actions considered separately.

A network is a whole whose function is to enable communication between its parts. In a well-designed network, there is a connection between every possible pair of parts. But in a network, unlike a system, there are no essential parts. If any part is removed, there are alternative ways to connect the parts affected.

The parts of a system many form a network, but not every network is a system. The so-called “telephone system” is not a system but a network. It has no essential parts. However, a telephone company is a system. If a collection of parts is neither a system nor a network, it is an aggregation, like a crowd or inventory of parts. For example, consider the wired telephone network. If the connection between Philadelphia and New York is broken, one can still reach New York from Philadelphia by going through any number of cities: for example, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Newark. But, if an essential part of a system–for example, the motor from an automobile–is broken the automobile cannot perform its function.

Ackoff, R. L. (2010). Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management. Devon, UK, Triarchy Press, pp. 119-120.

Thank you, once again, Russell Ackoff for this clarity. A system is a set of interrelated parts, where the contribution of each is essential to the purpose and behavior of the whole. A network is a set of interrelated parts, providing robust communication among its parts. An aggregation is a pile of parts. Clear. So, are you a system, a network, or an aggregation?

We’ve Been to the Moon, Now It’s Time for an Earthshot

We have gone to the moon: now we need to take care of our earth.  This is where we live, and this is what we are made of, earth and its life forces, our biology. An earthshot is to say YES! to a future we love, here on this earth, amongst all of us that inhabit it.

The prophet of abundance-based technology and bold steps towards a far-better world, Peter Diamandis, invites us to take on a “moonshot mindset,” invoking the power of John F. Kennedy’s 1962 moon speech. Again, we need to do it, we have not done it yet, and we can. This “means applying 10X thinking (or 1,000%) to all of your efforts and challenges.” As Kennedy saw, you have the resources, you have the knowledge, you have the will, and you have the need, the love for that future. Now you need to put it all together, probably in new ways.

My colleagues and I have found that many “positive deviants” have already figured out part of the “how,” how to put it all together, and these positive deviants are everywhere, across the planet, even in your own backyard. We are now putting these pieces together into an abundance-based approach, based on the emerging science of abundanceecosynomics.

The herenow we face requires an earthshot—we need to do it, we have not done it yet, and we can, together, each bringing our best contributions.

All Rules Come with Standards and Principles You Didn’t Set—With Principles-based Choosing, You Set All Three

As I described in an earlier post, one way to be more resilient is to shift from thinking about rules to standards and principles.  John Rawls, a moral and political philosopher, highlighted in his book, A Theory of Justice, the differences amongst the terms rules, standards, and principles.

Rules are straight lines, asking yes/no questions, looking for triggering conditions that something is changing, seeking predictability and certainty.  Ex ante, the thinking is that this rule should and will provide this stability.  Put it in place, and let it work.

Standards are balancing feedback systems, with a gap between a stated goal and the actual state driving action that changes the actual state, like a thermostat.  This system looks for balancing factors in a set of relevant considerations and options, providing a range of choices.  Ex post, this thinking asks whether this standard maintained the behavior within a desired range.

Principles are systems to be considered, providing guardrails for the feedback loops (standards) to include, and how the choices made in actions might be interpreted.  In reflection, this thinking asks whether the system of standards and rules under consideration increases resilience of the desired impact.

Rules tell you what actions to take to close the gap. For example, for your physical health, eat this many calories, with this mix of proteins, grains, vegetables, and fruit. Or do this much exercise a day. For your mental health, read this, think about this, stop thinking about this, or talk to this person. For your emotional health, have these friends, and engage in this way. Each of these guides for how to act are rules. Rules often come with implicit standards of what healthy looks like, based on a principle of standards, rules, and who should be setting them.

Simply put, every rule comes with standards and principles, whether you agreed to them or not. With a principles-based start to your choices, you set all three. You decide who decides, towards what purpose, with what standard, what feedback process, what rules, and what actions. You choose.

Everything Stems from Your Purpose

Everything is energy, and every thing requires energy. Einstein showed that matter–a thing–equals energy. A lot of it. E=mc2. Or m=E/c2.

When we value something, we want to connect to it. The word we use, value, comes from the Latin valere for be strong, be worth. Connecting to this value gives us purpose. Purpose comes from the Latin pro– “forth” and the Old French poser “to put, place”, meaning to connect to energy, to plug into the source of our energy. Our purpose, what we value.

Not plugging in is saying no to the energy, yes to disengagement, no to human creativity, and no to love. If the energy is there, and if what we value is there, and if connecting to the energy of what we value is there, there for us to engage and transform, then why would we not do that? That seems like a massive waste.

Purpose-driven leadership focuses leaders on understanding the power and the dynamics of purpose, engaging it, and transforming the energy of it into something that others value. When people connect to a deeper shared purpose, they are able to achieve far more together than not. According to XPRIZE founder, Peter Diamandis, a purpose-driven mindset deeply energizes you, focusing your thinking and awareness, always looking for new insights and relationships that can enhance your ability to achieve your purpose. McKinsey research shows that aligning the company’s purpose with the purpose of its people leads to much better results: higher engagement, higher loyalty, and a net-positive impact for their stakeholders.

So, if we are energy, and if we need energy to replenish our energy, then we need to connect to energy. That energy is everywhere, and the way we connect to it is through purpose. While this might seem obvious, many people still do not do it. This means that you know what your purpose is, and you connect to it continuously. This engages the energy and guides what is done with it. The evidence is there, and you know this from your own experience. Connecting to it, to your purpose, your Yes!, is a choice. Your choice.

Flourishing at Work

According to a recent Gallup study, “Only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work.” 85% are not! How did this happen?

What can we do about it? My colleague Tyler VanderWeele, professor and Director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, shares his recent research on flourishing at work in a January 27, 2021 post in Psychology Today. “Most people want to be engaged at work. The time passes more quickly, and the activities seem more fun. But engaged and satisfied employees are also good for business: they are more productive, less likely to leave the company, and less likely to waste time on the job. Engagement can have a major impact on costs, revenues, and profit.”

The mainstream is starting to pay attention to this. In a December 2020 HBR podcast, Christina Maslach, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley talks about “why burnout happens and how bosses can help. In November 202, the VisualCapitalist provided an infographic of “15 Warning Signs to Identify a Toxic Work Environment Before Taking a Job.” It is no longer rocket science or “that soft stuff.” The numbers are huge, and the costs are very real.

We need to realize that, as human beings, we are each uniquely constituted and contextualized, and therefore we are each uniquely engaged or disengaged. This means that to address engagement–flourishing at work–we need to inquire into each person’s context. We need to ask, listen, and try something, together. While this might seem expensive to do for each person, Tyler’s study showed that the costs of not doing so are far greater. Once we see that the costs of scarcity are far, far greater than the costs of abundance, the investment in Yes!, then we will start to make progress, creating thriving, regenerative organizations and communities. These authors are paving the way.

Your Full-lumens Diet

Your daily ritual. You are a calorie burner, and you are a creative being. You burn calories and lumens, the creative energy. For both your calorie and lumens burning, which are outflows, you need nourishment or inflows. Choosing what you put into your body is also known as a diet. While many think a lot about what calories they put in their body, it is healthy to also think about what lumens they put in their body.

Simply, what mineral elements do you take in to form your physical body? Do you know what the actual ingredients are and whether your body processes them well? It is easy to find out. Eat it and see what your body tells you.

What intentions do you let in to nurture your volitional energy of choice? Do you set those or does someone else use your intentions, your drive to do things? To find out, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Did you choose this consciously? Did someone else? What would you choose? Do these choices align with your Big YES? Try, and see what happens.

Your relationships with others, what you feel in them, and how you support them nurture your social energy field. Witnessing how you feel in these relationships is completely within your power. Are these relationships and how you perceive and react within them nourishing you or taxing you? You can tell by seeing whether you feel better or worse for being in them.

The ideas that you accept into your thoughts, consciously and unconsciously, directly nourish how you perceive what the world is and how it works. Are you choosing what enters your thoughts, or are you accepting someone else’s conditioning? You are exposed to massive amounts of information all day long. Are you choosing what you allow in? And, just because you are exposed to it, does not mean that you have to accept it. Do these thoughts align with your values, with what you know to be true from your own experience? You can choose the thoughts you use to align your perception of what is happening in your context with your values and your deeper contribution.

These are four basic elements of your full-body diet. The minerals, intentions, feelings, and thoughts that directly nourish your body. You put junk in, and you feel junky. You put in elements that strengthen you, you are stronger. It is easy to tell with each of these four elements. Simply try, and pay attention to what your body tells you. Then adjust. It is your choice.

The Science of Abundance: 4 90-min talks (3 in Spanish and 1 in English)

Together we can take on huge challenges. I am grateful to my colleague Adrian Joyce for joining me in this 88-minute session with the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM in Madrid. With our co-host Isabel Ortiz, we shared what we are learning at the Institute for Strategic Clarity (isclarity.org) about the “science of abundance” and cohosting societal collaboration. We specifically explored Adrian’s work with the Renovate Europe Campaign.

You can see the recording of this session and 3 others, exploring this “ciencia de la abundancia,” on the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM YouTube channel [https://lnkd.in/dkAhmJB].

Is It Winter? That Depends. Really?

When working with groups, I challenge them to think of anything that is fixed, unchanging, always the same. While people pop up with some possibilities–my sister is my sister, that building is there, time is time–we quickly discover that all of these understandings have shifted dramatically in recent years. Family relations can be defined biologically and socially. The building used to be materials, which were minerals before, and will be materials then minerals again in the distant future. Time was constant and universal, until Einstein’s theory of relativity. Everything changes and depends on other things. While this is leading-edge thinking in organizational strategy, it is a very old teaching.

I just found out another one this week. Is it winter? Surely that is fixed. Winter is winter. Isn’t it? Nope. It turns out that there are different definitions of the seasons and when they start. Two basic definitions of seasons are meteorological and astronomical.

Meterological seasons are based on average temperatures. Winter is the coldest average temperature for three months. Since there is a lag in the cooling down or heating up of the lithosphere and hydrosphere, winter officially starts, in the USA, on December 21. This is the winter solstice. In this way of thinking, the solstices and equinoxes mark the beginning of the season. In other countries, winter starts officially on December 1. And, that is for the northern hemisphere, with the southern hemisphere being in summer at that time.

Astronomical seasons are based on the tilt of the axis of the Earth. Winter is when the nights are shortest, with the winter solstice marking the middle of the season.

Well, at least we humans agree that there are four seasons. Right? Nope. In some cultures, there are two seasons, others have three, six, or twenty-four seasons in a year. Even though I thought I was thinking about everything as being dynamic and systemically interconnected, I had never even questioned whether I knew when winter started. Well, it depends on how you define it, the culture you come from, and the distance you live from the equator. Once again, life is even more interesting than I had thought.

Getting The Universe To Conspire With You

Does the universe seem to conspire with you?  Everything seems to work.  Or does the universe seem to conspire against you?  Nothing seems to work.

Building on our global work of the past twenty years at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, my colleagues and I have been building an understanding of the underlying ecology of consciousness and nature, the reality that humanity is and in which it swims.  The practical application of this ecology is the agreements field.  An agreements field is the energetic field that you experience of a set of agreements, of the reality you experience with a group, in a specific space.  This agreements field–what you unconsciously accept or consciously choose about how you will interact with reality, with each other–includes 10 dimensions of reality.

These dimensions describe the reality of the ecology of consciousness and nature.  That means that they are dimensions of your reality.  By seeing them as dimensions of your reality, dimensions that you can directly experience, this gives you the tools, the choices to change the agreements field, to adjust to the reality you want.  The reality you need to have the experiences you want and to achieve the outcomes that are yours to achieve.  They are all there, for you to choose.  This is getting the universe to conspire with you, because the universe asks this of you.  Decide how you want to agree to enter and relate with each of these dimensions.  Set your intention.

The ten dimensions are relatively straightforward, building on thousands of years of observation across all human cultures, as well as string theory in physics.  In essence, the universe is made up of purposeful energy, energy that transforms to and must serve a purpose.  It is in the very nature of energy.  So here is the first choice–what is the purpose towards which the energy is invited to engage.  A tool for this is the Deeper Shared Purpose.

Then you have to connect to the energy.  This is the choice of how to connect you and others to a purpose that engages them.  This is connection to the source of the energy.  Does your purpose and your process for connecting to it engage?  We call this cohosting.  That’s the second choice.

This purposeful energy comes with many different ways of understanding it, of relating to it.  You can think of this as another multidimensional energy that requires many different lenses for engaging it.  Like an 8-part harmony in a jazz ensemble or the 3 parts of deciding whether you can make money building and selling something (can we make it, can we sell it, can we profit from making it and selling it?).  You need all of the requisite perspectives of that specific purpose to perceive it and engage it.  You cannot do an 8-part harmony with 3 voices.  You cannot decide whether you can make a profit by just knowing how much it will cost to make.  You need all of the required perspectives.  What perspectives are required depends on your purpose.  The choice here is in how you bring in and work with those perspectives.  One tool for this is the O Process.  This is the third dimension of choice.

The degree to which those perspectives engage and share what they are perceiving depends on their experience of trust.  This is reflected in the level of vibrancy experienced in five primary relationships: the relationship to one’s own self, to the other, to the group, to nature’s creative process, and to spirit’s creative source.  When you have generated a space of low vibrancy where the experience is of a weak relationship to these five primary relationships, almost nothing of what the people perceived is shared.  When you have generated a space of high vibrancy, people experience very strong relationships to these five primary relationships, and they share all of what they are perceiving and build on it together synergistically.  From very low energy throughput to very high energy throughout.  This is the fourth choice.  A tool for assessing the level of vibrancy experienced is the Agreements Health Check survey, available free online.

These first dimensions describe whether you were able to engage the purposeful energy.  The next set of dimensions describe your choices in transforming that purposeful energy.

Do the agreements in your group work with the energy engaged?  The engaged energy comes in three forms: in knowledge of what already is, in developing new capacities and relationships, and in seeing new possibilities, accessing new potentials.  Do your organizational agreements, structures, and processes work with all three forms or focus mostly on one?  If you tend to focus explicitly on outcomes, existing capacities, and what is already known, you might capture the energy engaged around the knowledge shared of what already is, but you will lose all of the energy engaged around learning and seeing of new possibilities.  You have to be structured consciously to work with these three forms and not lose them to entropy.  This fifth dimension of choice can be assessed with the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool.

Once you have the engaged energy flowing into your organization, do you know how to transform it efficiently and effectively into something that others want?  This means taking the inputs of raw resources and creative energy and putting them together in unique ways that drive value for others.  This is the crux of the resource-based view of the strategy of the organization.  This transformation works at three levels of leverage: direct, dynamic, and structural.  Direct leverage is working directly with the resources in the most efficient way: knowing what you are doing to transform these enabling resources into value-driving resources.  Dynamic leverage is knowing how to work with the system dynamics of feedback loops that either stabilize towards homeostasis, balancing the local system or grow the system exponentially–balancing or reinforcing feedback.  This requires knowing how to work with the feedback dynamics of functional areas.  Structural leverage is coordinating multiple balancing and reinforcing feedback loops–the organizational system–to achieve the overall desired goal.  Maximize output from minimal inputs, across interacting feedback loops.  This requires knowing how to bring together interacting feedback loops of balancing and reinforcing forces to achieve desired outcomes.  This strategic systems work is the sixth dimension of choice.  The Systemic Leverage Index tool describes the level of direct, dynamic, and structural leverage in your system and how to increase them.

For you to be resilient in your ability to continue to transform the engaged purposeful energy, you need to be able to access the resources you need.  This resilience is a function of inflows and outflows.  To be resilient, your resource inflows must match your outflows.  Your resource outflows are the resources you need to transform the energy inputs into the product or service you are offering.  Think of these as the costs of bringing in people and resources and having facilities.  The inflows are the resources you need to provide the outflows.  Think of these as the money, products, and services required to provide for the people, enabling resources, and facilities.  When your inflows match your outflows, you are resilient.  When your outflows exceed your inflows, you are not.  When your inflows exceed your outflows, you are wasting resources.  A tool for measuring your resilience is the Resilience Dynamics map.  This is the seventh dimension.

These are the dimensions of transforming the purposeful energy engaged.  The third set of dimensions key in on transferring that transformed energy.

Do the people you are intending to offer the transformed energy want it?  Are they ready to receive it in the form offered?  Shockingly, most groups will expend great amounts of resources to know how much money they have (accounting information systems and processes) and how much inventory they have (enterprise management systems), and they will then survey their consumers every couple of years, meaning they spend almost nothing in knowing whether people actually want and are able to receive what is being offered.  When I ask, many, many groups tell me that they don’t really want what is being offered.  This shows in the marketplace, and is harder to see in civil society and government offerings.  And, when they do want what is being offered, it is often offered in ways they cannot work with.  It is too much or too little, or in a form they don’t want.  I don’t need soup, I need clothes.  We want water access, but not through the policies you implemented.  We want to educate our kids, but not your way. But you don’t ask, so you don’t know.  Anther possibility is for the intended recipients of the transference of the transformed energy to be deeply involved in the process, co-creating the forms they most need and are ready to accept of the transformed energy.  This is the highest value they can put on that energy.  The Memetics and Epimemetics tools describe the ability to transfer the transformed energy, your eighth dimension of choice.

Who in the system are you actually serving?  What percentage of the time?  Many groups declare they are serving the entirety of a specific population, when their outcomes show they are not.  Public K-12 education for all citizens.  Serving all sports fans in our area.  Yet, they only reach half the intended population, and the half they don’t reach is predictable, often by zip code.  And, they reach most people in the system some of the time.  The eCubed tool measures the degree to which a system serves everyone in the system (E1), everywhere in the system (E2), everyday in the system (E3).  A system says it is designed for the people it is serving.  This is eCubed (E1 * E2 * E3) equals 100%.  Most systems have an eCubed far less than 100%: they are not serving the system they say they are.  They are not transferring all of that transformed energy to the explicitly intended community, rather a subset of it.  This reflects the quality of the overall system design.  This is the ninth choice.

The 10th dimension of choice is the people you engage.  When you invite people into your purpose, you are asking them to exchange their calorie burning for lumens generating.  They need money, food, housing, etc to take care of their needs.  These are all calorie-equivalents.  Things to provide and protect more calories into their bodies for existence.  When these are covered, these calorie burners become lumens generators.  Lumens are the creative expression of human energy, as people connect to a purpose and the creative energy begins to flow.  This is what you are doing with your organization: bringing in calorie burners to generate lumens.  These lumens generated bind with the inputs of enabling resources to transform into value-driving resources.

You have all of these choices.  Choices that you make every day, whether you do it consciously or unconsciously.  The agreements field of these ten dimensions that you generate directly influences how much of this purposeful energy you access, engage, transform, and transfer and how much you lose to entropy.  In all probability, you are currently losing most of it to entropy, because you have accepted an agreements field and not consciously designed it.  You are expecting the universe to work in a specific way, which sometimes works for you and sometimes doesn’t.  Another way of understanding this is to see that these are all dimensions in a set of choices, an agreements field that you can generate.  They are all there for you to work with. This is how you get the universe to conspire with you.  You tell it to.  That is the choice that the universe expects from you, to know how to breath with you, to conspire with you.